Many moons ago, I worked various temp jobs over summer and winter breaks from college. One job that I actually returned to a few times (thanks to the fact that they liked me, I guess!) was in the alumnae association office at a local women’s college. It was basic office work — nothing groundbreaking — but I made great money and worked with some really nice people. One of those people was Alicia Bessette, who worked on the college’s alumnae magazine, and was one of the two people I usually spent my lunch hour with. A few years my senior, Alicia was kind, fun, pretty and smart, and she was someone I hoped to be a bit like when I “grew up.”
I hadn’t seen her in years, but a mutual friend of ours (the other lunch buddy!) recently mentioned to me that Alicia had written a book, and that led me to reconnect with her on Facebook. (Oh, Facebook — I love you and hate you all at the same time!) Coincidentally, my new Kindle (birthday present, woot woot!) also arrived last week, so I promptly bought Alicia’s book and dug in.
I’ll try not to be biased, but I really enjoyed Simply from Scratch, and I think I would feel the same way even if I didn’t know the author personally. It was a fairly light read, but at the same time, it never felt “fluffy,” if that makes sense. The characters are likable, realistic, and developed in a way that really makes the reader connect with who they are and what they’re feeling at the core. The story stays fresh and unpredictable, and it is infused with personality and humor throughout.
The main character is Rose-Ellen, “Zell” for short, a 30-something woman still coping with the loss of her husband who died on a post-Katrina mission to New Orleans a year earlier. Zell’s days often blend into one another, marked only by her work and her outings with Ahab — her dog who “talks to her” in pirate-speak — as she continues to grieve and figure out how to make it through each day. Along the way, she connects with some kind-hearted new friends, reconnects with those from her past, and decides to take on the challenge of entering a nationwide baking contest (after turning her oven on for the first time in over a year). Following her journey of growth and pursuit of happiness is an absolute delight.
This is not just another story of a person dealing with loss; it’s a sweet story about celebrating relationships, new and old, and finding oneself in the process.